Singlespeeds or fixed gear bikes (fixies), as the names suggest, are bikes with only one gear and a may have a fixed rear wheel — meaning if the wheel is spinning, so are the cranks. These are similar to the bikes you see whizzing around velodromes, and in bike messenger circles they are considered the best road bikes available by virtue of their absolute simplicity.
With the only the bare minimum of moving parts, there is very little that can fail on the best singlespeeds, and by proxy, this means that the bikes don’t require a whole lot of maintenance. Better still, they are vastly less expensive than most other bikes, and riding a fixed-gear bicycle will also do wonders for your pedal stroke too.
While a few daring riders choose to ride their fixed gears brakeless, this is ill-advised and most likely illegal. In most countries, for a fixed gear bike to be road legal it must have two effective brakes with resisting the cranks on a fixed gear counting as a rear brake. However, laws can vary so it is important to double-check the legal requirements.
Read on for our favourite singlespeed and fixed gear bikes or head for the bottom of the page for a rundown of what to look for.
Best singlespeed and fixed gear bikes
State Bicycles overarching mantra is riding bikes because it’s fun. They don’t get hung up on counting grams and the like, and are only concerned with producing quality bikes that will keep spinning for many years to come, and most of all are a blast to ride.
Priced at a meagre $299, their Core Line of bikes are aimed at those who might be looking to get their first bike for kicking around town but are intimidated by the price tag associated with some other brands. Bikes in this price range are usually of your Walmart or other department store quality, the Core range delivers a quality steel frame, horizontal dropouts with integrated tensioner, and a flip flop fixed/freewheel hub with a 16t cog on both sides — making for a 46x16t gear ratio. State also allows you to customize your build; you can swap the riser bars for a bull horn or drop bar, choose pedals, saddles, and add bottle cages or lights.
Cinelli has made quite a name for itself, making high-performance track bikes, and some of the best looking urban fixies on the market. The Tipo Pista is made from Columbus alloy tubing and sees a fork with carbon blades to shed a few grams while also dampening some vibration through the front end.
Based around a fairly traditional track geometry, which means steep angles and the handling is sharp. Steel inserts in the dropouts mean there is no need for serrated axel nuts, which can chew up the frame. The bike comes with front and rear brakes out of the box, so it’s road legal, but these can be easily removed should you want to take a few laps at the velodrome or embrace your inner alley cat. The rear wheel is equipped with a flip flop hub with an 18t single speed and 17t fixed cog, which is paired to a 48t chainring on the front.
Pure Cycles got its start with single speeds, and their mission was to get more people on bikes by providing affordable, easy to maintain bikes, and that is precisely what the Original Series does.
With a steel frame, the bike comes with the veritable WTB Thickslick in a 28mm width, meaning this bike is primed for skids. The frame sees provisions for two water bottles and has bosses for fenders and a rear rack. There is a single front brake, and an optional rear brake should you want it. Pure Cycles also sends its bikes out with a flipflop hub; 16t freewheel and 15t fixed pared to a 40t or 43t chainring depending on the size.
The steel single speed from Genesis is the ongoing evolution of the simple, smooth-riding, comfortable bike. It shares the same tube spec and geometry as the Equiliburim road bike’s brands and sees a carbon fork with alloy steerer to shed weight and dampen vibration in the front end. Out of the box, the bike comes with a flip flop fixed/freewheel hub with hill friendly 42x17t gearing.
The frame sees the classic Campagnolo style forward-facing dropouts for easy wheel changes with mudguards, but the Clement Strada LGG tyres do well to resist punctures meaning it should be a rare occurrence. Genesis has also designed its own XL length chromo plastic mudguards that come stock; the bike also comes with front and rear brakes.
Cinelli’s Tuton Plus is exceptionally versatile in that it’s designed to serve as a commuter, hauler, and CX racer. The Tig welded Columbus Cromor Steel frame has horizontal dropouts but sees 130mm rear hub spacing, and provision for a rear derailleur should you want add gears down the line. The frame itself has room for 45c gravel tyres and even has v-brake studs, meaning it can be a single speed CX racer for the ‘keep cross weird’ crowd.
Cinelli has designed the steel fork with a 45mm rake and a heavy load segmented crown design that allows for a front rack, and there are bosses for fenders and a rear rack. It’s a bike that can grow with you and be chopped and changed to adapt to your riding interest
With a Reynolds 725 steel frame, the Ribble Urban 725 is a pure urban commuter designed around wide tyres to maximize comfort and grip over a broad variety of terrain. With clearance for up to 40c rubber, the bike can be set up on fixed or freewheel.
Available in three sizes, you can order the bike through Ribble’s Bike Builder, which allows you to tailor the spec further to meet your needs and budget. The geometry calls for a flat bar, but the saddle, gearing and tyres can be chopped and changed based on what you’re looking to get out of the commuter.
Featuring All City’s Master Dropout, which uses a thru-axel instead of wheel nuts, the Super Professional Singlespeed can be converted from geared to single speed. Built around the brand’s CX geometry, it can handle anything your commute can through at you, and you can take the fun way home. All-City uses its 612 select proprietary butted steel tubing and sees rack and fender mounts, and even stealth dropper post routing.
There is room between the stays for 700x45c or 650x47mm rubber and has provisions for flat-mount disc brakes. All-City sends the bike out with an FSA Omega MegaExo crank with a 44t chainring, which is paired to an 18t cog at the rear. In typical All-City form, the bike has a show-stopping paint job and the electrophoretic disposition coating, which ensures max paint adhesion and protects against rust.
Surly’s Steamroller frameset is the original fixed/single speed frameset. Released 20 years ago the Steamroller’s formula has remained almost unchanged since and continues to be one of the best do-everything urban, gravel, cyclocross single speed bikes available. The geometry employed by Surly is sharp but forgiving and there is clearance for up to 38c tyres, so it’s also great for taking grassy shortcuts, exploring urban singletrack, and racing up back alleys.
Usually sold as a frameset, Surly has opted for cast horizontal track dropouts with 120mm hub spacing, and there are eyelets for a rear fender and a bottle cage on the seat tube. The frame also sees mounts for dual pivot mid-reach brakes front and read, and uses a threaded bottom bracket.
How to choose a singlespeed bike
1. Fixed, freehub, flip flop hubs
Single speeds come either in fixed or single speed hubs; the latter allows for coasting, while as long as the rear wheel is spinning on a fixed gear, so are the cranks. Transitioning to a fixed gear bike can be a little weird if you’ve never ridden one before, but it offers a unique experience.
Skilled riders can do epic track stands, skids, and flatland tricks, but for the rest of us, just remember to keep pedalling, because if you stop, you’ll get bucked and end up with a road rash and a bruised ego.
With no derailleur and a sliding rear dropout, most single speed bikes use standard wheel nuts to secure the rear wheel rather than a quick release or thru-axle, so you’ll want to add a 15mm wrench to your flat tyre kit.
A flip-flop hub is somewhat self-explanatory by name. It features both fixed cog and freewheel technology into a single hub, allowing you to flip between the two without having to own two rear wheels.
When it comes to single speeds, choosing the right gearing is paramount because you’ll be pushing it up over hills, into headwinds, and over whatever else your ride entails.
The best way to compare gearing is in gear inches, as it takes into account the gear ratio, wheel size, and tire width. Our good friend, the dearly departed Sheldon Brown has a handy calculator on this website for figuring out gear inches, and there are apps like the Bike Gear Calculator available for iPhone and android that allow you to plug in your dimensions spit out the results.
For the purposes of commuting, aim for about 70 gear inches, a bit less if you live somewhere hilly, a bit more if you local is pancake flat.